Home > Built (Saints of Denver #1)(9)

Built (Saints of Denver #1)(9)
Author: Jay Crownover

“Yeah. You guys hooked up, but like always, Halloran made the wrong choice and went back to the guy that was beating on her. She told me she skipped out on you the next morning without even giving you her name.” The woman who said I should call her Echo tucked some of her curly hair behind her ears and looked at me with tired hazel eyes. “She saw you on the news when they did that story about the tattoo shop you were renovating in LoDo. I don’t think she meant to tell me but it slipped out . . . she saw you on the TV and said, ‘That’s Hyde’s daddy.’ ”

I knew it was coming, had felt it as soon as she told me I had hooked up with her friend. Fury, whiskey, and a pretty, sad girl led to really bad decisions on my part. I had been having sex since I was fifteen, and I could count the number of times I had done it without protection on one hand with most of my fingers left over. Unfortunately one of those times was the night I got out of jail.

“You’re telling me I fathered a child with your dead friend?” It sounded harsh but my head was reeling and I was suddenly having a hard time breathing. The ground under my boots felt less solid than it had a minute ago and everything inside of me wanted to call her a liar and throw her off of my site.

She nodded. “Yeah. I mean, at the time I didn’t really think anything of it. Halloran has had a lot of boyfriends and Hyde has had a lot of ‘special’ uncles throughout the years. I wouldn’t bother you, would never have tried to find you if it wasn’t an emergency. Because of how she died and her history of drug use, the state took Hyde. He’s with Social Services now on his way to a foster home. If you don’t do something they’re going to put him in foster care and then try and adopt him out. He’s going to get lost in the system.”

I balked and fell back a step. “If I don’t do something? Seriously, lady, I don’t even know if what you’re telling me is true.”

She nodded and dug around in her back pocket until she pulled out a cell phone. “I know it’s sudden, and I know it’s crazy. But Halloran didn’t have much family and the ones that are left don’t have anything to do with her or Hyde, so there are no relatives that can or are interested in taking him. I offered, but I’m gone so much for work and my track record isn’t exactly spotless, so they turned me down as fast as they could. I also had some bad habits and liked the wrong kind of men when I was younger. Luckily I got myself straight before it was too late.” She gulped. “I very easily could’ve ended up like my friend.”

She blinked at me then turned her attention back to her phone. “It may be crazy and hard for you to believe, but you have a son, and if you don’t do something soon he’s going to end up nothing more than a case number in some social worker’s file.”

It was my turn to shake my head. I wanted to tell her to leave. I wanted to tell her she was crazy and talking nonsense, but I had never been the type of man to run away from the messes I created or my responsibilities. So when she thrust her smartphone at me I took it from her like it was going to bite me.

I held the little device in my hand and stared numbly at the picture of a very pretty blond woman with her arms wrapped around a little boy in torn jeans and a Transformers T-shirt. He had wavy dark brown hair, big eyes that were a clear, calm dark green, and a smile missing a few of his teeth. He also had a very familiar dimple indenting his chubby cheek. He was tall for a little kid, and as I gazed at the image before me I couldn’t help but feel like I was looking at a photo from my own childhood. My hand went numb and the phone tumbled to the ground.

Echo didn’t say anything. She just bent down to pick up the device and held it out in front of me. “There are hundreds more if you want to see. The resemblance is startling, isn’t it? That’s why I freaked out when you first came out of the house. It’s like looking at Hyde in the future when he’s all grown up. He looks just like you. He just turned five, so you can do the math if the picture isn’t enough to convince you that he’s yours.”

He did look just like me. He really fucking did.

I ran a hand over my beard and considered her thoughtfully. “Why didn’t your friend ever find me? Why didn’t she ask for help?” The idea that a part of me, a tiny human that I had helped make, had been out there in the world all these years without me knowing had some of that old rage and resentment I struggled to keep a lid on churning deep in my guts.

“I told you, she went back to the guy she had been with. I don’t think she really knew who Hyde’s dad was until he was born. It was pretty obvious when she had him, though, that it wasn’t her boyfriend since he was Mexican and Hyde obviously isn’t.” The girl flinched and shoved her phone back in her pocket. “The boyfriend beat her so bad when she got out of the hospital she almost died then. That forced her to clean up her act for a while because she didn’t want her newborn to be without a mother, but the older Hyde got the more Halloran started to slip back into her old ways. She probably could’ve tracked you down, introduced you to your son, but she was more concerned with chasing the next high and keeping her newest man to be bothered doing something that might benefit her kid. Like I said, Halloran was sweet and kind, but she wasn’t a very good mother. I mean, I think she tried to be, she just didn’t know how. Hyde has had a pretty shitty time of things in his few short years. You could make such a huge difference in this boy’s life, Mr. Fuller. He’s a great kid, outgoing and funny. You would never know what he’s been through. He deserves a real home. He deserves a parent that will love him and take care of him.”

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